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Be Afraid, Google. Facebook Will Do Search.

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A screenshot of what appears to be a web-search box at the top of a Facebook page has been making the rounds, with AllFacebook suggesting it is part of a beta test of a new search feature. Facebook has denied this is the case, and the image appears to be a result of Photoshop or some external service adding a box to the page. Regardless of whether the page is a fake or not, the giant social network is almost certain to add more search features. It’s just a matter of time. And yes, Google (s goog) should be afraid.

Facebook is already involved in search to a certain extent. The company did a deal with Microsoft (s msft) last fall to add results from its network to the Bing search engine, and Blekko — the search engine startup launched by Rich Skrenta last year — also has a search that includes social results based on Facebook “likes” and other activity. But so far, Facebook’s involvement consists of allowing Bing and Blekko to crawl or index its data rather than doing so itself.

Google, meanwhile, made a big show of launching social and real-time search earlier this year, but the reality is that the majority of what those searches pull in (apart from Google-related social activity) is Twitter results. As Google knows, when it comes to real-time social information, Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla. The network’s users spend 700 billion minutes a month on the site, and post 30 billion pieces of content, including likes and status updates and comments. But none of that shows up anywhere in Google’s social search, and given the history of tension between the two companies, there is little chance that it will.

You could argue that not indexing Facebook is a good thing, since much of what happens on Facebook is irrelevant or ephemeral and, therefore, doesn’t belong in a search engine. But much of what occurs on Twitter falls into the same category, and yet Google clearly feels there is utility in searching that content.

The reality is that social signals — what people share, what they comment on, what they click the “like” button on — are becoming an increasingly important part of identifying intent, and that’s what Google has built its business on. But Facebook is positioned far better in terms of taking advantage of that aspect of the social web than Google is, and the network was recently awarded a patent that gives some indication of what it is thinking about in terms of combining search and social signals.

Google continues to try to bolt on social elements to its services, including allowing users to vote down search results they don’t like, or adding toolbars and enhanced profiles. But the billions of clicks and uploads and “likes” from Facebook are something Google will never have, and can’t possibly duplicate. It seems obvious the social network will take advantage of all that information in the form of social search, and that has to be something keeping Google awake at night — or should be.


Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Will Clayton

47 Responses to “Be Afraid, Google. Facebook Will Do Search.”

  1. Lovin’ how the COMMENTS on GigaOM (also RWW) have livened up ever since TC was assimilated by FB/Comments.

    Of course, using ye Olde TC approach of leading with a polarizing headline will get folks hackles up and stir up the COMMENT section even more.

    [to the article itself? I don’t believe Google are swayed by the daily Fox-news like hype banter about so-and-so versus so-and-so. As for fauxial networks? They’ll come and go]

  2. Yeah, I like these kind of articles, beware Gmail! Facebook messaging is coming! Have you tried to use new Facebook messaging? If you are trying to communicate with your friends while they are offline, I guess it’s fine. But to use it as a full service email client, like managing large attachment, organizing info folders, searching within your messages etc., I would not do it.
    Regarding “Facebook search” I think pairing with Bing was a mistake in a first place. If whatever you search has a Facebook page it leads you to it first, instead showing you several related results and if there no page or group, some links from bing search will appear. Facebook is trying to create their own “facebooknet” and if all of us instead of being connected to internet will be connected to that Facebook world, it will work. Otherwise, keep trying.

  3. Thats really funny. Google has nothing to worry about. Facebook can barely keep its core product up and running; let alone a product people need to depend on and be reliable.

  4. drgooglib

    I dont think Facebook has the midas touch everybody thinks it does. Just because they slap a search bar on their page doesnt make them a threat to Google. Not by a long shot. The reason Google is synonymous with search, is because it’s very good. Better than it’s competitors. People have been using it for years, and liking the way it works. What does Facebook know about search? Very little by comparison to Google. If I worked for Google, I wouldnt be shaking in my boots just yet.

  5. I would argue that “clicking the like button” indicates affirmation, not intent – and the difference is significant with regard to the value of indexing for search. Affirmation might give you an indication of what a person might be interested in based on past activity/affiliation, but it doesn’t = intent.

    Having said that, I’m sure Facebook stands to make some significant coin simply by adding a web search field to their interface. It’s AOL 1998 all over again.

  6. btw…you committed a strawman fallacy: rather than attack the argument you attacked the person. I build brands…from the local telco here to tobacco, alcohol, and even feminine hygiene.

    i’ve thrown parties you would have wished for an invite to. focus on the argument. you really don’t know the person behind infini so i wouldn’t try.


    i believe the argument was about facebook doing search and i think its a joke that google is afraid.

    you believe nobody really uses google and i countered that your statement is N.American centric. do a geographical analysis of users on facebook and then calculate how many people in the world use some of google’s products.

    your retort cool guy?

    • OH, the majority of us N. Americans aren’t
      *that* bad. Most of us are pretty good people by and large. In fact we’re so varied in outlook and personality that I don’t really think there *is* such a thing as N. American centric (although I could be wrong). Of course we do have our loud mouths just like anywhere else but thankfully, they tend to be in the minority despite what you might gather from the forums, comment sections and…well…our politics at the moment. :-)

      • Hey this was not an attack on N.America. I’m Canadian eh!

        It was about how those that think Facebook will take over the world are coming from a largely N.American centric mindset.

        ad $ is growing exponentially in Asia and only a slim portion of that goes to Facebook (if at all since China blocks it and Vietnam is trying note: 1+ billion people).

        i was at adidas briefly and we allocated a little bit to FB but almost 10X more on SEO. the demographics for FB in the rest of the world is pretty young and upper SEC. very narrow demographics when one considers milk (mothers and children), beer + alcohol (wider demographics but largely mid to lower SEC), and fashion (women, mid to upper SEC).

        FB is meaningless ‘out here’. with or without a successful search.

        i just hate closed systems like apple and facebook. reminds me of Gattaca

  7. ooooo…personal attack! i’m game.

    i’ve been on facebook since i was back in canada…about 6 years now. have over 400 real friends. but i live in SE Asia now and see the real world.

    i’ve gotten a job on Linkedin and even made a few bulk rice sales. facebook? um…people have liked my party pics.

    the extent of facebook’s relevence is determined by the population density of the country in particular (combined with various other socio-political factors). low pop. density means harder to find/create social networks. high pop. density means this is easier so there is a lower usage of facebook. period.

    do your analysis based on that since you like numbers. recap: usage of facebook based on pop. density.

    oh do you use youtube? im sure you do. google maps?

    like i said…try to get out of your N. America centric thinking. the rest of the world uses google for most of their services.

    i don’t really care for who comes out on top. i call it as i see it. i’d share my facebook url with you but don’t need more friends. i’ve got enough sorry

  8. haha!

    700 million and people think facebook will take over the world.

    try to imagine how many people IN THE WORLD use google to search. facebook will take over N America perhaps. but sorry but that isn’t the world.

    get real…forget about search…google is about more than that. i will guarantee when you leave the walled garden of facebook you end up using something of google’s. and they’re content with that.

    scared of facebook…this article makes me laugh

    • Lakawak

      So…they have almost 700 million users and you think it is only popular in North America?

      And users is only one part of hte equation. You do realize that the average time spend on each site is EXTREMELY in favor of Facebook, right? They have hte eyes on their page. They have many people who never leave Facebook

      Again…it is a good thing that you will never have a job that does not involve a hairnet and nametag. Because if you think that the people at Google agree wiuth your comment, you are a huge idiot.

    • Lakawak

      OH…and by the DO realize that even outside the walled garden (which many people DON’T leave) that 4 out of ever 5 people DON’T use anything with Google’s name on it other than search. Everything they offer has a VERY small market share other than Gmail, which is tied for third place with AOL Mail. (Yes…THAT AOL mail) with about 20% of internet users having an account. So, since htat is by far the highest of hte “other” services that Google offers, and iti s only 20%, that means that the other 80% don’t give a damn about Google other than search.

      I know it is hard for you to think like someone who is not a social outcast, but the average person does NOT think “Oooooh! It is Google so it MUST be good!” NOBODY used Google Checkout even though they were giving away $10 bribes. Wave and Buzz were jokes. Google Video was a joke so they have to go and pay 2-3 times more than they should for the competition.

  9. Theycan not compete as a search engine. They have a ton of personal data, but nothing as far as i am concerned to deliver complex search queries. When is the last time you heard of someone submitting their site for a crawl to facebook.Plus they dont want to compete in that market, they are years behind, and that would make them an easy target to the many up and coming facebook rivals. They should stick to what they are good at. Letting me share information i find on google with numbnuts who want to click a like button and think its awesome. Facebook is nothing more than a tool to connect with people and share. Thats it, it is nothing more. Once the gig is over, there will be a new king. Everybody probably thought myspace was going to be a long lasting king. Nope. One day people are going to wake up out of their coma, and get back to being productive, instead of diddling with digital pigs.

  10. Fakebooks

    Do you actually think that a company that copied geocities, AOL, friendster and myspace knows anything about “search” algorithms, relevancy and information retrieval sciences applied to billions of web documents can compete against a real technology company like Google?

    Remember CUIL? How about Bing?

    Try to understand what a real technology company is. Fakebook is the next myspace. In other words the Justin Beiber of tech co’s and by the way, myspace was the Jonas Brothers of tech co’s.

    Get real.

    • Darrell

      Get real – Facebook is the biggest thing to happen to correspondence since email.

      In what other way can you aggregate everything your friends, family and favorite companies and bands do In real-time?

      You want to talk about flops? just look at Google’s Wave or Buzz. Why didn’t anyone use them? Go ahead and compare myspace to Facebook – but 500 million users can’t be wrong. You’ve heard of that right? They made a movie about it.

      • love how people love to use this 500+mil number.

        umm…how many people drive SUV’s? use disposable diapers? burn fossil fuels? followed Hitler? Stalin? Chairman Mao? loved Milli Vanilli (sorry had to throw that in there)

        numbers prove only that a great number have the same herd mentality.

        mooooooo. better pastures anywhere?

        btw i’m using google chrome. best browser out there with disconnect extension so tracking cookies from sites like facebook are blocked

    • Lakawak

      I remember Bing…that is that search engine that many surveys of people who have studied results have shown that Bing is BETTER than Google in many areas. That is that search engine that some Google head honchos have ADMITTED were better than them in some areas. That is hte search engine that Google has been copying lately.

      Just matter how ridiculous you sound in defending them, Sergey will never let you suck his penis. And again…if you think that ANYONE at Google is as cavalier over this threat as you are, then you are an even bigger fool than I expected. Andtrust me…I consider you a HUGE fool.

  11. I don’t think facebook will be able to beat Google in search. Because google’s search algorithm is very good and very much efficient, and not only that google’s other features are also good, like docks,labs,news,etc..
    But i think what google should do is, they need to upgrade there page raking or page showing system. It has really become a very common thing that google can’t provide the exact content containing websites(I have suffered from it). If google can’t keep their database clean of wasted websites,than facebook has a real chance of beating google.

  12. Google is having some problem Microsoft use to have, lack of internal innovation and huge amount of backlashes. If you played with Android SDK you’d know that a lot of things are just not as perfected as Apple…

  13. Whenever Facebook launch something, people make some reasonable arguments that it’s gonna be big. But so far their Q&A and comments haven’t taken off. People assume we will do everything on facebook if we can. But in reality, not all logical conclusions become reality.

    • Lakawak

      IT doesn’t have to be huge to really hurt Google. Google gets 99+% of its income via advertising, and most of that comes from Take even a relatively small amount of that away from Google and they will feel the hurt big time. And while you are right that not everyone wans to do everything in one place, many do. Enough to take perhaps a double digit chunk of the markte from Google, which would pretty much completely end ALL of Google’s money losing services (which is everything.)

      Anyone who thinks that Google is not concerned over this or thinks that they would come out on top if it does happen is a fool, or a fanboy, or both. The fact ofthe matter is, if Google and Bing both debuted today fo hte firs time, in one years time, Google would NOT have 85% or the market like they do now. Becuase that number has nothing to do with the quality of each serach engine. It is mostly about habit. But people also have the habit of doing everything on Facebook. It is not as if hte average person types every time they want to search. They simply use the search box. Well, now if that search box points to Facebook, that is what they will use. And tens, if not hundreds of millions of people have Facebook open at all times whenever they are online.

  14. My guesstimate is that in 5 years, Facebook has crushed Twitter, and in 10 years, it has crushed Google as well.

    Facebook friends are the “known knowns”, Twitter reaches the “known unknown”, and Google serves the vast “unknown unknowns”….